Last weekend’s humiliating loss to cross-town rivals Inter left many of Milan’s supporters in disbelief. Although many fans of the Rossoneri expected a tough season and voiced their disapproval of the club’s hierarchy due to the poor transfer campaign, not even the most pessimistic expected such a mauling by Inter.
The squad available for Coach Leonardo certainly leaves much to be desired. In addition to the now habitual complaints of having an aging squad, the Rossoneri faithful have had to deal with the loss of their hero Kaka and the legend Paolo Maldini and also the destabilizing effect of former boss Carlo Ancelotti’s move to Chelsea. In last week’s segment pertaining to the club, the discussion touched upon the difference that can be made if Andrea Pirlo is moved to a more offensive position while having either Frenchman Mathieu Flamini or Gennaro Gattuso switch back to Pirlo’s spot. Indeed, the consequences could be cataclysmic if such an adjustment is not made before it is too late. The trouncing inflicted by la Beneamata on the Rossoneri is perhaps a blessing in disguise. Il Diavolo could miss out on the Champions League if changes are not made soon enough to the playing system and the utilisation of personnel.
While Pirlo’s repositioning is justified and has been covered thoroughly last week, a few other troubling factors remain a priority for Milan’s coaching staff. To start with, there are still doubts about Ronaldinho’s use let alone if he can still deliver the goods. In addition, the Brazilian Tactician must decide who is best fit to partner Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato. While Marco Borriello partnered the young striker to start the Milan derby, the two did not seem to mesh well at all and they appear incompatible. The short time that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was on the pitch revealed that the player has potential yet he too does not seem to compliment Pato, yet. This brings up the critical issue of whether changing Ronaldinho’s position up-front can also be used to actually adjust the whole line-up by switching the system as opposed to wishing for players who are currently not available on Milan’s roster. The underachieving Brazilian can partner his fellow countryman freeing up one more spot in midfield.
Instead of deploying the 4-3-1-2 system currently in effect, the rookie Coach can opt for a 3-5-2 lineup (which essentially becomes 3-4-1-2 with Pirlo being that 1 behind the forwards) which can provide cover for the defense while offering support to the stuttering forward line as well as making use of a plethora of midfielders at the disposal of the former World Cup winner. In fact Kakha Kaladze has been rumored as the Coach’s next choice to fill the left-back position, yet it does not take a rocket scientist to realize the Georgian does not offer a solution to the team’s problems on the left side. The 31-year-old defender is not only getting older but remains injury prone. However, if he is utilised as part of a three-man defense then perhaps he too can deliver.
Kaladze will flank Alessandro Nesta from the left while Brazilian Thiago Silva will complete the back-line partnership. In front of the defense, both Gattuso and Flamini will assume the role of retrieving the ball and, thus, help the defenders in making it hard for opposing teams to score. On the left side, the much-maligned Clarence Seedorf (following the substitution debacle) will provide width and opportunities for the forwards while on the opposite side Zambrotta can achieve that. This leaves Pirlo to assume the playmaking role albeit in a more advanced role which relieves him of having to go back and fight for the ball while allowing him to conserve the energy needed to create scoring opportunities. Pirlo’s slick passing will provide the Rossoneri’s forwards with enough ammunition to get on the score sheet.
Possible Milan line-up 2009/10
1 Dida (Abbiati once fit)
33 T. Silva – 13 Nesta – 4 Kaladze p>
15 Zambrotta – 8 Gattuso – 16 Flamini – 10 Seedorf
7 Pato – 80 Ronaldinho
With such a line-up, the team can have more midfielders to cope with and limit the key players from opposing clubs. Even Ronaldinho can sometimes push back and take over Seedorf’s position in case the Dutchman has drifted inside the field towards Pirlo. In reality, the crucial factor is having fluid movement down the flanks between Seedorf and Ronaldinho on one side, and Zambrotta and Pato on the other. If Ronaldinho fails to deliver, then Milan will be forced to go with a more robust attack with new signing Huntelaar replacing him.
As for Pirlo, he will be able to roam freely and perhaps then he can reproduce his World Cup 2006 form once again. The Rossoneri do need an injection of young blood with at least three players needed during the January transfer window if the team is to achieve some positive results. Otherwise, the San Siro faithful laughing will be those supporting the Nerazzurri.
In the meantime, Leonardo must prove he can adapt to circumstances and use to his advantage the limited crop of players currently with the squad or else the club might miss out on the Champions League next season.
Milan Club Focus 2009/10
Pre-season expectation – August 18, 2009
Leonardo breathes as Brazilians relieve pressure – August 25, 2009
Kaka returns to the San Siro – August 27, 2009
How to play 4-3-1-2, a lesson from their rivals – September 1, 2009
Reshuffle the current squad, regain the winning mentality – September 4, 2009